Day 54 – Piropiro Campsite to Ongarue

Date: 18 November
Trail covered: 41.8km (kms 964.5 to 1006.3)
Weather: very wet

So like I decided yesterday, I am no longer going to report on the distance that the GPS watch says I walked, because it so wildly under-reads. I had originally started including this because I wanted it to include any extra that I walked, like to and from accommodation or dinner, or things like that. But it just hasn’t been working out. So instead I will report how far Guthook says we have walked, by taking the difference between the two km markers.

Overnight I had a strange dream. I dreamed that I was at home and I was about to go back out to continue walking the TA after taking a break, but Mum got very emotional at the thought of me leaving. I woke up genuinely thinking that I was still at home, and I was surprised to find myself in my tent. Must’ve been the beers last night!

This morning I saw two new faces at the shelter table – the occupants of the two extra tents from last night – they were Abby and Jason and they are doing Walk for non-violence from Cape Reinga to Wellington. It’s surprising that there aren’t more people out there using the walk as a reason to raise money. Abby also said they were doing the walk to get fit and also have some fun too. I thought that was nice.

While I’m giving out links, here’s Alex and Ethan’s blog. It’s great and well worth a read, they go into as much detail as I do. I have linked to the day where I first met them!

Okay, time for a quick check of the weather. Wow, no visible rain yet.

The campsite this morning

I had a look down to the other end of the camp. Last night, Alex had set up camp at the other end of the campsite from where I had set up next to Henry. That was because he didn’t know Henry or any of the other walkers at first, and he wanted to use the shelter at the other end.

The campsite at the other end with Peter, Charlie, Alex and Ethan

I woke up at 6am which is becoming a regular occurence. Since there was no rain, I thought I would walk after all as there is no rain to wait out. I’m sure there will be rain at some point but at least I’m not starting out in it.

I had some breakfast, and before long the other five showed up and were waiting for me.

Oops, I’d better get a move on

Here is our day today. 42.7km to Ongarue. I might go that far, or I might not, I’m not sure, but the rest are. There is a campsite halfway which I could stop at… although if I end up getting rained on then I’ll probably want to keep going so that I dry out. If you’re wet, then walk until you become dry – that’s what Rhydian kept saying.

There is also a place on the sign called “Mystery Creek” apparently – must be different from the Mystery Creek near Hamilton.

Then there was this sign – “Next exit Ongarue 42km”. Wow, I guess that means no road crossings and no way in or out if something happens to you halfway in. Scary!

Henry next to the sign

There were more cyclists on the trail today. I always tried to keep left for them but that wasn’t always possible.

Finally managed to capture some of the MAMILs on camera, although there was not a lot of lycra on the trail today because of the weather

My pack started hurting early on today. I think even after 3km I noticed it. That doesn’t bode well for doing a 42km day walk today. Looks like I might be camping halfway along the way somewhere.

Here’s the Maramataha Bridge. It’s the longest and tallest of the suspension bridges on the trail and it was awesome.

Maramataha Bridge

It took a while to get across and because it was so long it was also very wobbly.

I know this photo won’t do justice to how high up we were but I’ll post it anyway.

Don’t look down

Peter clearly wasn’t afraid of heights.

Peter’s going to great lengths to get a good picture

I put my rain jacket on at this point because it was getting a bit gloomy.

But like usual, I walked with it on for 3 or 4 minutes and then I felt too hot and sweaty so I took it off again.

Misty walk through the trees

Signs along the way suggested that we would now be following an old railway line for the rest of the way. Excellent – that means there should be no steep ascents or descents today!

Timber tramway

Here is one such piece of information that we were told on the way about the train – here is the bit where they did a three-point turn.

“Mystery Creek remains a mystery”. I see what they did there.

We had “lunch 1” here. Quite often we also have “lunch 2” and even “lunch 3”. My 11am picture is Alex and Ethan packing up, and Peter in the distance already heading off.

11am picture

All along the trail were fairly large holes dug out in this shape. I wondered what they were for, and someone in the group suggested that’s where the rain collects after it rains so as not to flood the path.

These aren’t swimming holes… I think…

The path started to look a bit more like wetlands…

And there was some old “junk” lying on the side of the path. Remnants of an earlier time perhaps? Or has somebody cycled all the way here to dump their old rubbish?

Somebody should report rubbish dumpers to the council!!!

As it started to rain a bit, Peter went into this shelter to wait for his brother who again was limping a bit. This was the first shelter with an actual door on it – it was very cosy.

The fanciest shelter so far!

Here’s another piece of train history, the jigger turntable. A jigger is apparently any vehicle adapted for train tracks by adding wheels.

Jigger turntable

These little information signs were everywhere on the trail. I didn’t read many of them as there wasn’t time with the big days but I did like this one.

Payroll goes AWOL

It was about 12:45pm when the heavens opened and the rain poured down. I figured it probably would at some point but I hoped it would be after I’d made it to the campsite that was halfway.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t put my rain jacket back on. Perhaps it was because I thought the rain might be short-lived, but either way, it was a silly idea. The rain went on for hours – at least three hours. I just had on my tshirt and shorts like I always do and these quickly got saturated. “If you’re wet, walk until you’re dry” wasn’t going to cut it this time.

Many paths from hereon cut through rocks

So I just kept walking and walking through the rain. With any luck the rain would stop before Ongarue and I’d dry out walking the last bit. I just powered on and didn’t slow down too much because that would make me cold.

But then the wind started too. That made it even colder. I haven’t yet worn the gloves that I brought and this would have been the perfect time as my hands were freezing. But they were way down in my pack and no way was I going to try and find them in the pouring rain. I’ll just have to live with it for now.

I’m annoyed because I knew what the forecast was. I should have been more organised. My hands were too cold to take too many pictures. I did manage a couple though.

And this one of a large Totara tree.

Please, other hikers, stop asking me about types of trees. I only knew this one because it was on the information sign.

I passed the halfway campsite and there was a small shelter. Abby and Jason were in there. I decided to press on as stopping would make me get even colder and there wasn’t enough space in the small shelter to dry off and change clothes. I knew there was another shelter at marker 73 or 74 and that gave me something to look forward to. So as I was walking along, I just kept counting the numbers and looking forward to the next one each time.

Heh heh heh, heh heh heh, heh heh heh

There were actually quite a lot of places you could pitch tents along the way, and some of them even had toilets. So I’m not sure why the trail notes insist that you should use the four campsites that are explicitly mentioned in the notes.

I kept myself in a good mood by thinking back to other good times on the trail, and imagining myself in warmer places like on the beach. I told myself that would be me as soon as I was at the shelter. It gave me the power to keep going.

I also saw the first animal I’d seen anywhere on the entire Timber Trail – a small goat.

This was as close as I got to any animal.

I got excited when the shelter was getting closer… and then suddenly, there it was! What a sight for sore eyes!

I could finally go in, pull out my towel, dry off and change into my thermals and my other shirt which was dry. And unpack all my stuff and distribute it all over the shelter. It felt so good.

Like always though, of course I’m unable to change my boots, so I have to put wet boots on again. I was sure this morning that I had dry socks and boots for a few hours. Maybe it never happened and it was all another strange dream.

The others turned up 10 minutes after I got there. They had “lunch 2” but then continued on in the rain. But there was no way in hell I was leaving this shelter until I was 100% certain the rain had stopped. Even if that meant waiting all night.

Fortunately I only had to wait half an hour, and the rain stopped. I waited another 15 minutes to make sure it didn’t start again, and set off on the final 8km to the campsite at Ongarue.

Creepy

This tunnel was early on and was quite freaky. I had to turn on my phone’s torch.

Even creepier

Then there was the Ongarue Spiral – a section of railroad that loops around in a circle and over itself, although of course it was now the trail. The shelter was just before here, at the top of the bridge up there and the others were disappointed in the spiral. I think they thought it was going to be some kind of loop-de-loop like a rollercoaster, or at least some kind of tight spiral walkway downwards around a tree.

Ongarue Spiral information

It’s true though, it wasn’t that exciting!

It’s just one track that loops around and ends up above itself!

Coming up were a few rock falls. Here is one such rock fall:

Thanks for the sign. Given the conditions on parts of the TA so far, it’s possible walkers actually would try to scale the rocks.

And there must be more coming, because of this sign.

No stopping next 1000m

One problem though. I was at km 999.5 and that meant the 1000 km mark was coming up soon. So Mr. Yellowsign there can say No Stopping all he wants – Im stopping to mark the 1000km point no matter what!

I also stopped to admire the view.

Despite being largely dry now, I still was very keen to get to the campsite and the others had gone ahead and so weren’t with me to celebrate this momentous occasion. So I just drew 1000 in the ground quickly.

If I wasn’t so tired and so wet earlier this would have been a much bigger and grander monument to 1,000km.

And did a thumbs-up.

One third of the trail done now!

After this the trail changed back to farmland:

And then logging operations, which wasn’t as beautiful:

I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and watching the km marker numbers. There were markers back on Raetea Mountain back on Day 6, numbered 1 to 18. Each time you passed one of those, you would be so excited because it was such hard going and you were moving at approximately 1km/hr. On this trail, however, the markers largely passed without excitement, except when you got near the end.

Almost there now. This was the last circular km marker that I saw.

Got a glimpse of the campsite through a gap in the trees.

Not long to go!!!

But first, a chance to reflect on how far we had all come in two days. Pureora was 82km behind us, and apparently 28 hours – however we managed it in 16 or 17 hours. We had now completed the Timber Trail!

Yay for us

I really didn’t think I would manage a second long day today, and I was feeling good too. The pack was hurting early on but then after a while I just didn’t notice it. I don’t know if it was anything to do with the rain but for the first time in a while nothing was hurting.

There’s the free camp and shelter. It’s also the car park for people wanting to start the Timber Trail from this end. Although in saying that, I didnt see one single person walking or cycling northbound, which I found odd.

I was last to arrive this time. Henry, Alex, Ethan, Peter, Charlie, Abby and Jason were all there. And not long after, a French couple turned up in a kitted out van. Charlie went to talk to this couple to see if he could hitchhike with them to Taumarunui tomorrow, because he was hurting again. But apparently they were not going that way.

Nice sunset with all the tents up, and the French couple’s campervan

Tonight I really hoped to book accomodation for tomorrow so that I could simply walk into Taumarunui tomorrow without thinking too hard. There was already enough to plan tomorrow (namely the Tongariro Crossing and Whanganui River journey) to worry about accommodation as well.

However there had been hardly any phone signal for the last few days. There was a tiny bit of phone signal here – every now and again a notification of some kind would come through on the phone. But it wasn’t enough to load a web page or do anything like book accommodation. Oh well, I guess it will just have to wait.

There were “mobile phone reception” signs along the start and end of the trail (none in the middle) but I was so wet and cold that I didn’t stop at any of them. If it hadn’t been for the rain then I would have sorted something at one of these spots. Ethan did exactly that, stopped at one of these mobile phone reception spots and booked a room at a motel somewhere. Apparently they were full now.

With AirBNB you can always be sure of finding last minute accomodation in a big city, but in a town it might not be so easy. It’s alright. All I am looking forward to is washing and drying all my clothes which are mostly now wet through. Speaking of which, my Torpedo7 “waterproof” pack cover doesn’t seem to be very waterproof – the stuff in the top of my pack got quite wet. I wonder if it really did anything at all.

Henry pointed out the nice sunset which I wouldn’t have otherwise seen – too busy sitting in the shelter

The other guys may get away from me soon. I think they will want to do the Tongariro Crossing and Whanganui River canoeing faster than me, whereas I want to take my time and have a bit of leeway in case the weather on Tongariro is bad. Although I would like to join them because they push me to go harder than I otherwise would, and it would be nice to be on the river with people I know, instead of being paired up with a random group of people that I don’t know. Something else to worry about tomorrow.

I got into my tent. Yep something definitely smells in the tent. I can’t work out what it is. Nothing smells when I smell everything individually. It kind of smells like an infected wound, but I don’t have any of those. Not that I know of anyway!

And I hear snoring again. There was snoring last night too, but with the different arrangement of tents tonight it must be someone different. I can’t tell who it is! I’m really going to struggle in the South Island where most of the sleeping is done in huts and I will be in much closer proximity to people!

It’s all good though. I was warm and dry and in my tent and didn’t have to start early tomorrow if I didn’t feel like it. Hooray.

Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):

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